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The flesh is weak

Watch and pray, that yee enter not into temptation: The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weake.

Matthew 26:41 (Holy Bible 1611)

No sport has ever had a greater hold on me than the sport of boxing. I remember as a child waiting to hear the results of the prominent fights of the day. Wilfredo Gomez knocks out Derrick Holmes. Sanchez handles Gomez. Larry Holmes takes down Gerry Cooney. And then later… Marvin Hagler defeats Tommy Hearns. I watched that one on television. It was a big deal. Donald Curry, face off with Milton McCrory. Mark Breland’s meteoric start, the chinks in his armor as his career progressed. Mike McCallum, could’ve been a superstar; too tough to tangle with though, easier to just pass on. Same with Pryor. What’s the time?

It’s HAWK time!

Then arriving to school early one morning to find out Ray Leonard had beaten Marvin Hagler! No. It couldn’t be. But it was. Straw polls in the high school hallways. Who’s going to win, Camacho or Mancini? I hadn’t a clue but gave my know-it-all opinion yet again, as if I had inside knowledge on the subject. Mancini. By KO. Wrong. Camacho beat him.

I could’ve sworn all that Mike Tyson hype everyone was suddenly spreading all over the place was just a bunch of wind. Like he was going to beat Larry Holmes? Seriously?!? Did everybody miss the whole decade of the 80’s, or something? And give me a break about him steamrolling Michael Spinks. Spinks had beaten Holmes, after all. Twice! But hey, you know how it goes. Boxing thrills and delights, but it also disappoints. Tyson beat them both. Maybe he was the real deal.

And then the night of my first date ever. I was sixteen years old. And my girlfriend was one of the most popular girls in the school. I felt so special. We were supposed to go to the winter formal together and then ditched the idea and decided on bowling instead. I had never been bowling either. Sounded fun. My parents consented. My first date.

It was an eighteen mile van ride into the neighboring town where there was a bowling alley. My girl sat up front talking to the dude driving, who was meeting his girlfriend at the bowling alley. Double date. I sat in the back and kind of listened to the conversation and kind of listened to the radio. There was good music on the radio back in those days. Poor kids today.

News flash
MIKE TYSON KNOCKED OUT BY BUSTER DOUGLAS IN TOKYO!

Upset of the century. I couldn’t believe it. On the very night of my first date, Mike Tyson had fallen. Not too good an omen, really. At least in hindsight. But the excitement clouded my head.

Bowling was fun. I lost to my girlfriend. I later practiced like a madman to make sure that never happened again. We drove about seventy miles an hour on the way home because I was going to miss the deadline my parents set, as if dying in a car crash would have made them happier than me being late. And in the end, they didn’t even know I was a few minutes tardy getting home.

A V8 van roaring seventy down the country roads. I hardly noticed. I got my first kiss on that van ride. I was on cloud nine. Two people fell that night. Mike Tyson fell in Tokyo. I fell to the charms of a hometown girl in the back of a van roaring seventy. Just a kiss, but the walls had been breached, the defenses penetrated, the first domino tripped. But enough about all that. The point is, I liked boxing.

The early nineties was a great era for the fight game. Some of the most exciting matches and colorful characters ever to grace the ring were in full bloom. Terry Norris. Buddy McGirt. Julio Cesar Chavez. Azumah Nelson. De La Hoya. Roy Jones. Sweetpea Whitaker. Big Daddy Bowe. And so on… In the midst of it all, there was something special happening in the British ring.

England. The place where modern boxing as we know it was born. Early bouts were fought bare knuckle under the London Prize Ring Rules, a limited set of regulations just strict enough to elevate boxing above the level of a barroom brawl. Then came the Queensbury rules. The end of the bare knuckle era. Gloves were now worn. It was no longer just a fistfight. Tactics emerged and changed as the rules were slowly modified. The English who started it all and dominated at the beginning declined as America shined. A long drought, but for a few shining stars along the way.

Then the nineties. The super middleweights. It was a newly created division and the early part of the decade belonged to the English. It was pre-internet so I read all the reports in the magazines. Another girlfriend. A city-girl from Chicago. I was out of high school now, and off in the world. That first kiss becoming a second, and third, and fourth, and so on…

When Iron Mike was kayoed in Tokyo, it was over. Done. Finished. When I fell to that first kiss, it was just the beginning of a slow and systematic destruction of my character. A fifteen rounder that I couldn’t win. Absorbing blows and punishment but not seeing the danger, the pull, the trap. The flesh is weak.

But life seemed roses at the time. That city-girl my only desire. Everything else put on the back burner for her. I liked the big city life, so different from the country life I grew up with. I even started boxing in a gym in the Chicago suburbs. I loved it, and made a pretty good show of it, for a beginner.

Lennox Lewis won the title by starching Ruddock, (and Big Daddy throwing the belt in the trash can) first English heavyweight champion in almost a century. But oh my, those super middleweights! Michael Watson. Steve Collins. Nigel Benn. And then there was Chris Eubank. He was the enigma. Something odd about him. Something intriguing. Something frightfully fierce about his fighting style. Something that captivated, far beyond just his ring ability. I’d look for his name in the rankings and the fight report and always find him a winner, no matter the odds or the opinions of the critics. His name and manner haunted that era like no other name.

And besides being the top dog of the division, he was a philosopher. He condemned the violence of boxing at the same time he dominated the ring in such violent fashion. Years later during an interview he was asked a simple question about his notorious boxing career. The answer he gave was illumination beyond perhaps what he intended. Or perhaps not.

Q&A of Chris Eubank

Q. Did you like fame?
A. No.
Q. Why not?
A. Because I loved it too much.

Barring the words of the Bible, I had never heard such candid and profound truth spoken. My mind immediately made a transposition of his words, adapting the principle to a biblical problem. A human problem. A sin problem. A problem as old as the Garden of Eden, where Eve, then Adam, first partook of the fruit.

Q&A of a Christian

Q. Do you like your sins?
A. No.
Q. Why not?
A. Because I love them too much.

Yes siree! I do so LOVE my sins. Oh, how I HATE that I love them so much! I truly do. I hate that my flesh loves my sins. Giving them up and abstaining from them is like ripping out a piece of me. It is the cross I took up after Jesus found me, and saved me, the cross I perpetually carry. Commentator Ferdie Pacheco’s impassioned cry at the conclusion of round one of the first Leonard/Duran matchup sums it up aptly, both of them still swinging as the bell sounded…

“WHAT A FIGHT!!!”

Yes. What a fight. Someday, God will wipe away all my tears. Someday, but not in this life (Rev. 21:4). In this life, my tears will stay.

So, how do I resist and overcome temptation? Only by the sustaining grace of Jesus Christ. It is He that has overcome sin and death. He is the vine and I am a branch, and I abide in him. Without him, I can do nothing. (John 15:4-5) Victory belongs to him.

Jesus said we must watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). He knew the wicked desires of men’s hearts, the allurements of the world, the siren song that relentlessly beckons… coaxes… invites. Sometimes we pray for the strength to resist the enticement of the moment.

But have we watched, also?

Lying on the floor of a speeding van, unsupervised, in a situation of temptation, then praying that the Lord will give you strength to resist is foolishness. “Watching”, would be not allowing oneself to be in such a situation in the first place. The kisses come, and then sin becomes too strong for us. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. So pray, yes… but WATCH also.

So, am I saying that a kiss is sinful? No. Not in itself. But it surely can be, when unauthorized, and it most certainly leads to greater temptation, and then perhaps greater sin. So often we are unable to see the cords we bind around ourselves at the time, not trusting in the Lord’s words, and instead seeking the things that please us in the moment. Then it becomes too late, and our weakness manifests. We seldom recognize the snare until after we are caught. So, watch and pray, as Jesus counseled.

Two men fell on the same night. One in Tokyo to a well delivered series of punches, and one on the floor of a speeding van… to a kiss. And great was the fall thereof.

Q. Do you like your sins?
A. No.
Q. Why not?
A. Because I love them too much.

Sometimes a kiss is the first punch of a knockout combination. And it doesn’t have to be delivered in Tokyo. Most often it happens in a person’s hometown.

And sometimes on the floor of a speeding van.

Watch and pray, that yee enter not into temptation: The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weake.

                       Matthew 26:41 (Holy Bible 1611)